WAILUKU - By a narrow 5-4 vote, Maui County Council members gave final approval to the Maui Island Plan on Friday, but with a last-minute amendment that added a footnote to the plan addressing the controversial Olowalu Town development.
Council Member Joe Pontanilla proposed the amendment, which said "the future delineation of potential urban-growth areas makai of the existing Honoapiilani Highway may be undertaken in conjunction with updates or amendments to the West Maui Community Plan."
It went on to say that "such delineation may consider the need to: protect adjacent coastal and marine ecosystems (including the reefs at Olowalu), enhance public shoreline access and open space, and implement the proposed Pali to Puamana Parkway plan."
Lahaina’s Ananda Stone holds a “Save Olowalu” sign Friday morning in the Maui County Council Chambers. Council members later narrowly approved the long-debated Maui Island Plan by a 5-4 vote. The measure advances to Mayor Alan Arakawa, who can sign it, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Pontanilla said his amendment would "enable the Olowalu Town plan to be further developed and studied as part of the detailed work that will be undertaken during the community plan amendment process."
"Further, when the council considers the West Maui Community Plan update, it will be better able to assess site-specific planning and mitigation measures for the lands makai of the existing Honoapiilani Highway."
Although Council Member Bob Carroll said that the footnote reflects the amendment process that can be done for any community plan, Pontanilla's amendment passed by a 5-4 vote, with Pontanilla, Carroll and Council Members Gladys Baisa, Don Couch, Mike White voting in favor and Council Members Elle Cochran, Danny Mateo, Riki Hokama and Mike Victorino opposed.
The council then needed to suspend its rules with at least six votes to disallow last-minute amendments to enable council members to vote on the Maui Island Plan bill overall.
Couch urged council members to allow the plan to go forward and not have it scuttled because of a procedural point. He said allowing the plan to get "out of whack . . . would be a shame," especially after years of hearings and deliberations.
The plan needed to be approved by the council by Dec. 31.
Victorino said he didn't want the plan to fail on the procedural point, and that he would reluctantly vote in favor of waiving the council's rules. He said he doesn't want development makai of the highway in Olowalu, but he wouldn't stand in the way of the plan's overall passage.
The vote to suspend the council rules passed 7-2, with Cochran and Hokama dissenting.
The final vote to approve the overall plan passed 5-4, with Cochran, Hokama, Victorino and Mateo voting no.
The plan advances to the desk of Mayor Alan Arakawa. He can sign it into law, veto it or allow to pass into law without his signature.
Olowalu Town developer Bill Frampton was not immediately available for comment after the council vote.
Irene Bowie, executive director of the Maui Tomorrow Foundation, had urged council members to reject the plan because the council had changed it from a growth management plan to one promoting growth.
After the final vote, she said she didn't understand the need for Pontanilla's amendment since it addresses the process of making an update or amendment to any community plan.
"I don't even understand how that's going to work," she said. "It seems unnecessary."
Commenting on the passage of the plan overall, Bowie said: "I'm glad that finally the Maui Island Plan is passed so we can begin the community plans (review and updates) and put more protections in the community plan process."
She said she was not aware if there would be an effort by plan opponents to urge Arakawa to veto the measure.
"I think everybody wants to move forward in the new year and put priorities in the community plan," she said.
More than a dozen public testifiers reiterated points made during previous public debates on the Maui Island Plan, with much of the testimony focusing on the Olowalu project, which calls for a 1,500-unit development on 600 acres both mauka and makai of Honoapiilani Highway.
During first reading on the Maui Island Plan on Dec. 10, council members approved an amendment proposed by Cochran to adjust the growth boundaries in Olowalu to prevent any development makai of Honoapiilani Highway.
Stephen West of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union testified in "strong support" of the Olowalu project, saying it would bring much-needed affordable housing in West Maui.
Marine biologist Cynthia Matzke said there was ample evidence to show that urban development along shorelines damages reefs. Olowalu's reef is particularly fragile and pristine and home to monk seals, manta rays and 500-year-old coral, she said.
She urged council members to be careful about approving development at Olowalu. "Your decision is pivotal," she said.
Baisa, chairwoman for General Plan Committee that reviewed the Maui Island Plan, said it's passage on final reading marked a "monumental day." The plan will be a "framework for future growth" on Maui, she said.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.